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When Bad Things Happen to Good Food

It may be no use crying over spilled milk, but the loss of certain other foods might merit a handkerchief

Image courtesy of Flickr user 2create.

I think most of us are familiar with the sardonic idiom “no good deed goes unpunished.” The idea is that no matter what goodness someone tries to bring into the world, the intentions will ultimately backfire. Foods that have been carefully crafted to induce pleasurable sensory experiences can also become victims of this truism. While there may be no use for crying over spilled milk, the loss of certain other foods might certainly merit a handkerchief. In the following stories, no good food goes unpunished.

Them’s the Breaks: Australia’s Mollydooker winery produces Velvet Glove, a premium shiraz that retails for around $200 a bottle. Its flavor has been described as a combination of “blueberry, black and damson plum, with a panoply of sweet spices” that makes for a “seductive, rich, viscous, and multi-layered Shiraz powerhouse.” With so much promise—and such a price tag—it was nothing short of tragic when, on July 22 of this year, an unsteady forklift dropped a container of the precious wine destined for the United States. Suffering a 6 meter (about 20 feet) fall, all but one of the 462 cases of wine were completely destroyed, at a loss of more $1 million.

Belated War Casualty: When a World War II-era German mine was found off the coast of Swanage, England in October 2009, the British Royal Navy was promptly alerted. Upon investigation, divers found a lobster had taken up residence there and lovingly named him Lionel. They tried to coax the crustacean out of his home, but the crabby lobster belligerently refused to be evicted, delivering a few nips to the trespassers. Needing to dispose of the bomb and left with no other alternatives, the Navy cleared the area and detonated the 600-pound explosive with Lionel still inside. (Granted, there was no indication that this particular lobster was going to be consumed—but he certainly had the potential.)

Smoked Sturgeon: The Mote Marine Laboratory’s Aquaculture Park in Sarasota, Florida raises Siberian sturgeon, which are harvested for their roe—a high-end treat we know in its packaged form as caviar. But on July 20, 2006, employees noticed plumes of smoke emanating from one of the buildings that houses the fish tanks, which contained sturgeon that were just mature enough to begin producing caviar. The six-alarm fire ultimately killed some 30 tons of fish—more than a third of the farm’s population. The caviar that could have been harvested from those fish over a three-year period would have netted an estimated $2.5 million.

Too Good to Eat: Truffles are considered to be a luxury foodstuff, and Italian white truffles are exceptionally rare mushrooms that grows underground and are hailed for their earthy flavor. One such mushroom weighing 1.9 pounds—the second largest known in the world—fetched $112,000 at an international charity auction in 2005. The winning bidder was a syndicate of regular diners at Zafferano, an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge, England. The fungus was put on display at the dining spot for several days, attracting visitors from as far away as France and Spain. Soon after its arrival, chief chef Andy Needham had to leave on business and the truffle was locked in the kitchen’s fridge. Upon his return, it was discovered that the mushroom was past its peak and the only person to have savored a piece while the truffle was in its prime was newspaper reporter Nick Curtis, who raved about the truffle’s flavor, describing it as “halfway between that of a smoked cheese and strong mushroom.” The truffle was buried in Needham’s garden.

Overturned by Revolution: In 1979, Islamic rebels overthrew Iran’s monarchy to establish a theocratic republic—and Islamic law forbids the consumption of alcohol. Tehran’s Intercontinental Hotel was resplendent with fine and rare liqueurs in addition to having a fabulously well-stocked wine cellar, a collection that was estimated to be worth in the neighborhood of $1.2 million. But instead of exporting the spirits out of the country, revolutionary guards poured the entire stock down the gutter. As of June 1979, Tehran newspapers reported that more than $14 million worth of alcoholic beverages had been destroyed.

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